The Roman Catholic Church says someone is demanding payment to return two rare documents. One is a letter signed by the artist Michelangelo, who died in 1564. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, part of the Catholic Church headquarters in Italy.
The church has not given details about the other document.
Both documents were stolen from the Roman Catholic Church archive almost 20 years ago. But the theft of the two documents had not been made public before Sunday.
The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero first reported the incident Sunday. Later, Church spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed it happened.
Fr. Lombardi says someone contacted the cardinal who runs St. Peter's Basilica and offered to get the documents back for a price. He does not say what the price was, but he says the cardinal refused the demand for payment.
However, Il Messaggero says the person was a former Vatican employee and had asked for 100,000 euros.
Nun informed officials
The spokesman says a nun who worked in the Vatican archive informed officials in 1997 that the documents had disappeared. They were removed from the archives of the Vatican department that takes care of the basilica, known as the Fabbrica di San Pietro.
The archives contain numerous documents concerning the history, design and construction of the world’s largest Christian church.
The spokesperson does not say why the Vatican had not announced the theft before. He says both the Italian and Vatican police are now investigating the case.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Reuters provided this report. Caty Weaver wrote it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
archive – n. a place in which public records or historical materials, such as documents, are kept
cardinal – n. a priest of the Roman Catholic Church who ranks immediately below the Pope
nun – n. a woman who is a member of a religious community and who usually promises to remain poor, unmarried and separate from the rest of society in order to serve God
basilica – n. a large church that has a long central part that ends in a curved wall
construction – n. the act or process of building something, such as a house or road